Northwest Center for Optimal Health: Natural Medicine Specialists





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Natural Medicine Q&A
Ask Dr. P
by Kasra Pournadeali, ND
Natural Medicine Specialist

Q: Dr. P, I read your column from last month about digestive health, and I’ve been taking enzymes, to improve my digestion. I noticed less gas, but my stomach is upset. Why? George

George, some flatulence (gas) is normal, as healthy bacteria in your intestine and colon normally produce gas during the course of “business!” If however, your flatulence is highly malodorous, or voluminous, then you may need digestive supports. Enzymes are a form of digestive support, but may not be appropriate for you. You might need supplemental stomach acid (in pill form) or plant medicines instead. Enzymes are especially inappropriate if you have ulcers, a weak stomach lining, or weak barriers between the stomach and the small intestine or esophagus. Your situation is not uncommon, and well illustrates how getting a holistic diagnosis by a naturopathic physician, prior to using natural medicines, is the best way to determine your unique needs.

Q: Dr. P, I heard that the herb licorice can sooth stomach ulcers, but my medical doctor doesn’t recommend it. Why? Melissa

Melissa, licorice (or Glycyrrhiza) is one of my favorite plant medicines, even though I could never stand the taste of black licorice when I was a kid. It has many uses besides being soothing to mucous membranes. For example, licorice is antiviral, anti-inflammatory, and it has tonifying effects on the adrenal glands (your “bumpers” to stress). Many medical doctors are often fearful about their patients using licorice, as they only know about harmful side effects of licorice (raising blood pressure as an example.) I’ve observed this rarely: when a patient is either sensitive to licorice, exceeds recommended dosing, or has high blood pressure or chemical imbalances. At our clinic we always make a point to communicate with your medical doctor about the natural approaches we recommend, reasons why, and if any interactions or side effects are expected.

Licorice can help with ulcers, but if you have high blood pressure, or other health issues, which make licorice inappropriate, then it should not be the first step. I would recommend other plant medicines, without the side effects of licorice, to heal your digestive tract.

Q: Dr. P, my doctor has told me I have Irritable Bowel, I should take a fiber supplement, but that there’s no cure. Can alternative medicine help? Stephanie

Stephanie, your physician’s recommendation of taking supplemental fiber is a good idea, and although I recommend my patients get it from food, some prefer taking a fiber supplement. If you take a fiber supplement, try to find either ground psyllium or flax, without additional additives, flavors or colors. This way you don’t get any extra chemicals you don’t need. I don’t agree with your doctor’s opinion of there being no cure for Irritable Bowel (an easily stressed digestive system with alternating constipation & diarrhea). In patients labeled with “Irritable Bowel,” I find it’s a matter of inadequate investigation. Comprehensive stool and digestive efficiency testing check for bugs, parasites, yeast overgrowth, low enzyme levels, blood, antibodies, and many other things which can cause symptoms of “Irritable Bowel.” Looking for food allergies or sensitivities is also important. Once your digestive system is working at maximum efficiency, we’ve eliminated any “bugs” (pathogens) that aren’t supposed to be there, and reduced stress from food sensitivities, the “incurable” Irritable Bowel miraculously resolves. If by some rare chance it doesn’t, multiple plant medicines can do wonders to calm your nervous digestive tract. Remember your digestive system is what every other organ system in you body relies. When your digestive system isn’t healthy, you aren’t healthy. Optimal digestion really is the key to health. Have a great month!

For more information or to schedule an appointment, please contact the Northwest Center for Optimal Health at (360) 651-9355.

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